Maestra Vida…probably the most anti-commercial thing that has ever been done in the world of salsa. The album deals with the subject of death. – Ruben Blades
Panamanian artist Ruben Blades has a most impressive resume. At times a singer, songwriter, actor, activist and political candidate, he holds a Master’s in Law from Harvard and, in collaboration with Willie Colon, released the best-selling Salsa album of all time, Siembra, in 1976.
However, shortly after this groundbreaking LP release, the honeymoon was over. He wished to leave the label he found his initial success with, Fania, but still owed several albums worth of material on his contract with them. He then decided to do something no one had ever attempted: a “Salsa” opera, much like a “Rock” opera in the model of Tommy by The Who.
The resulting releases, Maestra Vida (which translates in English as “Master Life”) was released in two parts as separate LP’s, and dealt with a subject matter pretty much never discussed in Salsa or any Latin music at the time: its song cycle revolved around death. In addition to Salsa music, it also included boleros, which are, in this musical reference, a type of romantic ballad popular during the 20th Century among Spanish speaking artists.
Though met with mixed reception upon its initial release in 1980, its legend has grown in the years since, often being listed as one of the greatest Latin music releases of all time. In Blades own words: “I wanted to explore other types of stories within the dynamics and the reality of the city, for example that of the old people who are left alone in their house waiting for the children who never arrive and who end up dying in silence. There is another series of images within the work that tends to make people think of other things as well “
Even some almost 40 years later, there really is nothing else by any artist since in Latin music to match its sweeping grandeur or drama as effectively. The albums, produced by Blades collaborator Willie Colon, are lauded by website Allmusic as “ambitious, freewheeling, and celebratory — not an immediate success, but a rewarding listen.”
Fun facts: Blades has also run for President of his homeland, and even at age 70, he is considering running again. For those of you might not know a thing about his recording legacy, you may have seen him recently in the television series Fear the Walking Dead as a recurring character.
Maestra Vida Vol. 1
- Carmelo (Parte I)
- Medley Como Tu/Carmelo (Parte II)
- Yo Soy Una Mujer
- La Fiesta
- El Nacimiento De Ramiro
- Dejenme Reir (Para No Llorar)
Maestra Vida Vol. 2
- Manuela, Despues ….(La Dona)
- Carmelo, Despues…. (El Viejo DaSilva)
- El Velorio
- El Entierro
- Maestra Vida
- Hay Que Vivir
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
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